DISCLAIMER: We are a decentralized initiative seeking to spread information and resources to the many tenants already talking about rent strikes. We do not have the capacity to provide anyone with direct legal support. A general rent strike will require mass participation, and our strength will come from the numbers and solidarity we are able to mobilize and any political pressure we are able to apply. We are in this together but must recognize that we are taking a risk.
Information and answers to common questions like, “I won’t be able to pay my rent, what should I do?” are also available in the COVID-19 BC Renter’s toolkit created by the Vancouver Tenants Union.
BRIEF LEGAL SUMMARY: An evictions moratorium has been passed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which currently protects tenants from evictions between April 1st to July 1st, 2020. During this time, landlords cannot enter rental units without your consent for any reason except emergency, and emails count as an “approved communication” method. Your landlord could serve you an eviction notice during this time but you could only be evicted after the moratorium ends. Regardless, dispute any eviction notice within 5 days of receiving it. Your landlord could also take you to small claims court to hold you legally responsible for paying any or all unpaid rent. Therefore if the strike is unable to meet its goals of cancelling rent payments we recommend anyone striking be as prepared as possible to pay their rent and/or be evicted when the moratorium is lifted.
Your landlord might attempt to harass or intimidate you if you decide not to pay your rent. Any attempt from them to enter your residential unit without your consent (with the exception of to prevent a health or safety emergency) has now been made illegal during the COVID-19 pandemic. You do not have to answer them on the phone or by e-mail (although emails are now considered an “approved communication” method during the moratorium). The only legal way they can hold you accountable for not paying your rent is through a strict process governed by the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB).
The province and RTB have recently declared that evictions will not be happening from April until July 2020 due to the health concerns of evicting people during COVID-19. Your landlord could still serve you an eviction notice during the moratorium. However, this does not mean you have to leave your home during this time period. At this time, it is not clear how an eviction notice served during the evictions moratorium will ultimately be enforced: the Residential Tenancy Branch may process the Notice and issue an Order of Possession that can only be used to evict you after the moratorium is lifted (currently July 1st), or they may not process it at all until then. Your landlord could ask you to sign a mutual agreement to end tenancy – if you do not want to leave your home, do not sign it.
If your landlord does serve you with an eviction notice, it will likely be a 10 Day Eviction Notice for Non-Payment of Rent in accordance with section 46 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). If you receive this notice, you typically have five days to either pay your rent or apply to the RTB for dispute resolution. If you don’t do either of these you could be evicted within 10 days after the evictions moratorium ends. No matter what, if you receive an eviction notice for non-payment of rent (or any other reason), you should apply to the RTB for dispute resolution within 5 days because:
If a large number of tenants apply for dispute resolution over the next few months, the RTB may be overwhelmed and unable to process all of them. They or the province could be forced to waive all non-payment cases that came up during the pandemic. This would be a great outcome for all renters.
If the RTB does choose to process these cases after July 1st, applying for dispute resolution can also buy you time to seek resources and support. The tenant organizations listed under ‘Tenant Resources’ may be able to offer support if you do receive an eviction notice – contact them right away, even if it happens during the evictions moratorium. If you are in touch with other tenants with the same landlord or live in a complex, you may be able to apply for dispute resolution as a group. There is a how-to guide on applying for dispute resolution here: http://tenants.bc.ca/applying-for-dispute-resolution/
During the dispute resolution process, the landlord can take you to small claims court to legally mandate that you pay all rent owing, or to grant your landlord an Order of Possession which they can use to quickly evict you. More information on the eviction process can be found below and here: tenants.bc.ca/enforcing-an-eviction/.
The RTB can order you to repay any rent owing to your landlord, and your landlord would need to take this order to small claims court in order to enforce it and have it be registered against you. They would need to provide you with notice in accordance with the Small Claims Rules, so you would be informed of this process. If the court orders you to pay and you are not able or willing, it can result in consequences for you that include bad credit and seizure of assets.
Similarly, if the RTB grants an Order of Possession in order to evict you, the landlord needs to take it to the Supreme Court in order to have it converted into a Writ of Possession. They can then provide this Writ to a Bailiff to evict you. There is an opportunity here for tenants to apply for an interim stay of the Order to allow judicial review of the RTB’s decision by the Supreme Court. This is, however, a somewhat complicated process and anyone considering this should likely talk to a lawyer.